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LAB explores the Greek myth of Prometheus

Bill DeYoung



From left: Brooke West (Eliora), Maurice Parker (Ethon) and Christopher Rushing (Prometheus). Photo: Paula Brito.

Of all the figures in ancient Greek mythology, Prometheus – one of the “pre-Gods” known as a Titan – has the strongest connection to what we know as creativity, art, culture, knowledge and imagination.

As the story goes, Prometheus stole fire from the Gods and gave it to mankind, stirring up all kinds of things the Olympians did not want mortals to get their grubby hands on.

It’s a myth, after all. And as such, it comes with a whole lot of interpretations.

“There’s something about that particular myth that’s always resonated with me,” says New York playwright Laura Hirschberg, whose Fire Thief opens Thursday at LAB Theatre Project in Ybor City.

Hirschberg has a distinct memory of gazing upon Paul Manship’s 18-foot-tall statue of Prometheus outside Rockefeller Center in Manhattan, with its inscribed quote (from the poet Aeschylus): “Prometheus, Teacher in Every Art, Brought the Fire That Hath Proved to Mortals a Means to Mighty Ends.”

“I always thought that was pretty thrilling and exciting,” Hirschberg says. “So in my head, that myth has always been about creativity and inspiration.”

When a university assignment called for her to write a play based on a myth, she thought of that eight-ton gold statue.

“I decided that myth opened the doors for impossible stage directions,” Hirschfield explains. “Impossible things onstage, which is a thing that I am attracted to. I love seeing shows that push the boundaries of what you can stage, and having non-human characters I got to still have the very human emotions of betrayal and loyalty, commitment and sacrifice, without having to be limited by some of our human foibles.”

Therefore, the show “could go on a grander scale – mixing the very human with the very grand as I continued the adaptation.”

Laura Hirschberg. Publicity photo.

Using contemporary language, Fire Thief centers around the relationships between Prometheus and his brother, Epimetheus, and with the Muse Eliora, created for the story by Hirschberg. Along with Ethon, the liver-eating eagle.

“Everyone,” says the playwright, “knows how Prometheus ends up, and everyone knows how it kicks off, but the middle is the real meat, obviously, for this particular play. From the jumping-off point of the familiar – stealing the fire – to who he would be having a conflict with, other than his brother.”

Fire Thief includes no human characters, and none of what Hirschberg calls upper-echelon Olympians. “Everybody’s got their baggage in Greek mythology, and I didn’t want that to pull focus or energy from what’s at the core here.”

As it deals with a myth, she admits, “it could go anywhere. The canon of Greek mythology alone is so vast, and there are some name-drops of various other deities and immortal things throughout the play.

“There were times when I toyed with the idea of having Zeus appear onstage, things like that, but at the end of the day I like the idea of this being a fairly intimate story. While still being far-reaching and broad in its scope.”

Hirschberg, whose works have been performed Off-Broadway, and by the Harvard University theater program, will be in Ybor City for a post-performance talkback May 12.

“I was attracted to the ethos of LAB,” she says, “very playwright-forward, very new play development-forward.”

LAB founder Owen Robertson is directing the production, through May 21. “Hirschberg takes the audience on a journey through complicated relationships against the backdrop of mythology,” he says. “Playing with Titans – what director wouldn’t want this opportunity?”

Find details and tickets here.


















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